Brunswick, Hermon, Bucksport and Wisdom High from St. Agatha took home North championship titles a year ago in Classes A, B, C and D, respectively.
All four lost in their state championship games and would love another crack at a title this season.
They all have a lot of quality returnees and will be among the favorites to defend their crowns along with Bangor, which lost to Brunswick 2-1 in overtime in the Class A North final.
Here is a look at the five teams in the North to watch this fall, in alphabetical order.
Last season: 16-1, lost 2-1 in overtime to Brunswick in A North final
This season: 2-0
The Rams came inches away from playing for the state title when All-State forward Devon St. Louis hit the post in overtime.
Bangor has returned two All-State players in dynamic midfielder Emmie Streams and speedy wing Anna Connors, the reigning state Class A outdoor track champ in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes and the state’s Gatorade Girls Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year.
Streams, who will play basketball at the University of Maine next fall, is a relentless ball-winner who can both score and set up her teammates.
Junior Lily Chandler and Olivia Scott join her in a formidable midfield along with holding mid Mimi Quinn, a junior.
Teagan Atherley saw a lot of playing time as a freshman striker last year and she and fellow sophomore Ayzlynn Gifford will join Connors up front.
A seasoned and very capable back line includes center backs Abbie Quinn and Izzy Ireland along with outside backs Ashley Schultz and Callie Tennett. Tennett was a sprinter on the state championship track team. All-State back Hannah Sherwood graduated.
Senior Emma McNeil returns in goal.
“We had a real good season last year but we didn’t get the final result we wanted,” said Bangor fourth-year coach Andrew Varisco, who added that the team is using that as motivation.
“Bangor is the team to beat,” said Brunswick coach Martyn Davison.
Last season: 15-3, lost to Windham 3-1 in Class A state final
This season: 2-0
Davison graduated his only All-State player in prolific striker Molly Taub but talented forward Alexis Morin scored 21 goals as a freshman last year — including the game-winner against Bangor — en route to being named KVAC Class A North Player of the Year.
Talented freshman striker Molly Tefft has among the “best feet” Davison has ever seen, and has led the team in scoring early this season.
Brunswick will be strong in the midfield thanks to dependable Shannon Flanagan and Kynli Van Leer and center back Ella Gustafson anchors the defense in front of goalkeeper Sophia Morin.
Gustafson’s cross set up Morin’s game-winning header against Bangor.
“We should be able to keep possession of the ball better this year,” Davision said. “We have a young team but we don’t have any weaknesses.”
Last season: 17-1, lost to Maranacook 5-0 in Class C state final
This season: 2-0
Mike Garcelon’s Golden Bucks won their first regional title and he returns virtually all of his key players — led by senior All-State striker Ella Hosford, whose 61 goals last fall set the state single-season record.
The other seniors are midfielders Allie Pickering, Alyx Frazell and Meg Morrison and backs Lanie Stubbs and Rylee Coombs.
Pickering was in the 30-assist range to go with her 12-15 goals.
“She creates a lot of our offense,” Garcelon said.
Morrison and Frazell can both attack and defend, and Stubbs and Coombs head up the back line, which also includes junior sweeper Nettie Fox and junior stopper Sammy Cyr.
Natasha Monreal, now a junior, also scored more than 20 goals for the Bucks last season.
Lily Chiavelli, also a junior, is another forward capable of putting the ball in the back of the net.
Jetta Shook returns in goal.
“We are on pace to be better than last year,” Garcelon said. “We have returning players with a lot of skill and maturity and the girls are a little more soccer wise. We also have 14 amazing freshmen who push [the veterans] and it makes for very spirited practices.”
Last season: 17-1, lost to Cape Elizabeth 3-0 in Class B state final
This season: 2-0
Hermon coach M.J. Ball had to replace two-time All-American Sydney Gallop, whose 112 career goals is tied for 13th best all-time in Maine schoolgirl soccer history.
”We have eight seniors who will lead the team and we also have some young players who will be injected into the lineup,” Ball said. “I’m not too concerned about replacing Sydney because we have a lot of firepower. But [All-State fullback] Maddy Higgins covered everything and that leaves a big hole we have to fill.”
The Hawks return an All-State striker in senior Lyndsee Reed, who had 35 of her 64 career goals last season. He also returns two “very skilled” midfielders in Michaela Saulter and Allie Cameron who exhibit “incredible ball movement.” Both are seniors.
Sophomore Brooke Gallop, Sydney’s sister, will also be in the midfield along with senior Megan Dorr. Gallop will be a holding midfielder. Seniors Jaylin Hills and Ashley Cote will provide depth in the midfield.
Two promising freshmen have cracked the starting lineup in striker-center midfielder Madison Stewart and striker-outside midfielder Natalie Tardie.
Backs Ally Coxson, Izzy Byram and Ellie Williams will have more elevated roles in front of junior goalkeeper Bella Bowden. Saige Lang and freshman Erin Selleck will also get minutes in the back.
Coxson is a senior; Byram, Williams and Lang are juniors.
Last season: 16-3, lost to North Yarmouth Academy 3-0 in Class D state final
This season: 5-0
The Pioneers, who also have four players from Van Buren High School, will be young in the back but they probably won’t spend much time in the defensive third.
High-powered senior striker Abbie Lerman has more than 100 career goals and is coming off a 42-goal season. She is complemented by talented junior wing Lilly Roy, sophomore wing Kamryn Clavette and senior attacking midfielder Olivia Ouellette.
Lerman and Ouellette began playing for the team as eighth graders.
Senior Ellie Pelletier and sophomore Alayna Deschenes accompany Ouellette in the midfield and the back line is comprised of senior stopper Elyssa Violette from Van Buren; freshman sweeper Ava Lerman, Abbie’s sister; and eighth-grade outside backs Madi Cyr and Emma Soucy.
Colleen Thamsen returns in goal.
Head coach Peter Clavette said last year’s first regional title since 1997 has left his girls hungry for more.
Wisdom has outscored its first five opponents 39-1 this season.
“They want the gold ball this year,” Clavette said.